2 Practical Ways to Build the Mental Toughness You Need in Business — and in Life.

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If I had to pick just one quality and characteristic I was able to take away from the game of football that greatly impacted my life as an entrepreneur, it would be mental toughness, without a doubt. Playing the game of football since I was a little kid and then eventually getting the wonderful opportunity to play at the highest level in the NFL has transformed my mindset more than anything else.

Of course I learned the incredible importance of teamwork, culture, leadership and other important qualities, but the resilience that was instilled in me from the game of football is what I am most grateful for.

If you think that football players or other professional athletes are born with a special kind of mental toughness and that it becomes second nature for them right away, you are wrong. Mental toughness is something that you can strengthen and develop over time regardless of what you do for a living.

recent study by University of Miami neuroscientist Amishi Jha found that mental toughness and resilience are skills that can be learned by and trained for by collegiate football players. The results showed that just like physical training, practice and repetition are key for mental training. Even though this particular study was limited to collegiate football players, its results were great news for everyone because they apply not just to football players, but to many different industries and occupations.

Why mental toughness is so important.

If you feel mentally defeated, chances are small that you will ever get to where you want to go. Whether we are talking about athletics or business, winning, first and foremost, will be absolutely everything. There is nothing that you can’t do or become when you have a phenomenally strong mindset.

A big part of having that focused mindset is being able to keep pressing forward when the going gets extremely tough, staying positive when negativity attacks and persisting over and over again until you finally reach your destination. That’s the true definition of mental toughness: displaying an enormous amount of belief, fight and dedication toward a goal that you are passionately pursuing. If you take a look at any category of high achievers regardless of industry, you will quickly realize that they have displayed an extraordinary level of mental toughness to get to where they are.

How to build mental toughness.

The University of Miami study showed that one of the best ways to build mental toughness is through practicing mindfulness on a consistent basis. Mindfulness is all about directing your energy and thoughts on the present moment without any judgment. I was first introduced to the power of mindfulness training when I was in college playing football for Indiana University.

Once a week, we would have a sports psychologist come in and lead the team in practicing different breathing exercises and body scans.(guided meditation focusing on different parts of the body). When we first started these routines, I was skeptical, to say the least. I thought there was no way all of these weird-looking exercises and the act of focusing on my breathing could impact the way I played on the field.

But I was so wrong. Not only did my focus on the field increase, but my anxiety and stress decreased after a few weeks of really giving these practices a try.

Based on my own experiences, I can offer two practical ways that may help you — as they did me — build mental toughness and resilience, starting today.

1. Practice mindfulness daily.

Practicing mindfulness daily is a game-changer. Not only are studies showing the importance of mindfulness and detailing the amazing benefits that it provides, but people like me are extoling it based on personal experience.

Mindfulness calms your mind down from the noisy and chaotic world that we live in; and that calm, in turn, equips you with the strength and peace of mind to keep moving forward even in the face of extreme difficulty. Being in tune with the present moment and living fully right where you currently are helps diminish the fear that holds many people back and provides them with the clarity to focus on what’s most important.

I use the Calm app, which has worked wonders for me. It has a variety of different breathing exercises and body scans that the app walks you through step by step. Practicing mindfulness daily doesn’t just help you build mental toughness, it can change your life in so many different ways such as decreasing daily anxiety and drastically increasing your overall well-being.

2. Step out of your comfort zone daily.

This one may be a lot more difficult than practicing mindfulness, but making it a daily habit to step out of your comfort zone builds an incredible amount of strength.

Just as you would go to the gym to get stronger physically and strive to make your muscles grow, stepping out of your comfort zone daily is what helps you expand your capacity for mental toughness.

The more I seek to step out of my own comfort zone, no matter how uncomfortable it may be at the time, the stronger and better I feel. When I plan my day the night before, one of the first things I do is ask myself how can I step out of my comfort zone for that particular day. You can’t build mental toughness and become resilient by always playing it safe and operating only out of the confines of your comfort zone.

In short, being resilient and mentally tough is a non-negotiable if you want to step into your greatness and become the best version of yourself. Give these two practices a try. They may well help you get there.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com

Make Someone Else’s Day, and 3 Other Ways to De-Stress

 

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A survey from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that close to half of all working adults say that their job negatively affects their life. And that certainly resonates: It’s easier now more than ever to get stressed out and adopt unhealthy habits into our everyday lives.

What’s more, the biggest problem about this epidemic is not the actual stress in itself, but our inability to do anything about it. Instead of thriving on all cylinders and being a top producer in our chosen lines of work, most of us settle for a state of survival.

Of course it’s important to work extremely hard, put in the long hours and do everything in your power to make sure you are living up to your full potential each and every day. However, that doesn’t mean you neglect your emotional, mental and physical health in the process.

Here are four things that will help you eliminate stress and reclaim your happiness.

1. Make someone else’s day.

Remember the famous Clint Eastwood line from Dirty Harry? Why not turn it around? Because one of the easiest ways to eliminate stress and put a smile on your face is to find a way to make someone else’s day. When stress beats us down, it’s usually because we put too much focus on ourselves.

We may be way too hard on ourselves, setting unrealistic expectations at work, and feeling consumed only with what we currently have going on in our lives. But when we make it a priority to be of service to someone and “make someone else’s day,” we just might learn one of the most fulfilling ways for minimizing stress and reclaiming our happiness.

2. Go on a digital detox.

One of the best decisions that I ever made was to go on a digital detox for one full week. I stayed off social media, never once opened my email and even made sure that my phone was in a completely different room locked away for the whole week.

This was a very powerful action that provided me with just the right amount of solitude and soul searching required to get back on track and come back even stronger. In the technology-driven world that we currently live in, it’s incredibly easy to fall into the trap of comparing our success (or lack thereof) to someone else’s achievements. It’s easy to let social media run run our lives. It’s easy to forget about what matters most in life.

I am not suggesting that anyone go on a technology detox for a full week like I did. But I am encouraging that people at least try it out for maybe a weekend or just one day. I am positive that you will enjoy the sense of relief and calmness that will result.

3. Let gratitude be the driving force in your life.

Every single time that I have been stressed out and on the verge of burnout, my absence of gratitude has always been the main reason why. It’s virtually impossible to be stressed out and feel terrible about yourself when you are in a constant state of gratitude.

And in case you’re wondering what that means, there are plenty of ways to incorporate gratitude into your daily life. I write in a “gratitude journal” each and every morning. The first thing I do when I wake up is write down three to five things that I am grateful for that day. Instead of worrying about what I have to do over the day ahead or taking a look at the hectic calendar waiting for me, I turn to gratitude first.

Another way that I bring gratitude into my life is by going on a daily gratitude walk. I learned this daily practice from my friend and bestselling author Jon Gordon. Before I listen to music or a podcast, I’ll go on a scenic walk early in the morning and say out loud everything that I am grateful for. This energizes me and is a profound way to start the day. Stress has no chance of surviving when you are in a constant state of gratitude. Don’t believe me? Check out this Newsweek article which reports on five scientifically proven benefits of gratitude.

4. Get lost in a great book.

One of my favorite things in the world is to read and get lost in a great book. There is something magical about picking up a great book and not letting your worries, fears and stresses win the battle of your mind. Great books have the potential to change lives.

Even though I read a new book every week, I have a stack of ten or so more familiar books that I always turn to when the going gets tough and I feel the hustle and bustle of life starting to really get to me. All it takes is for me to pick up one of these great books and start re-reading it for 15 minutes.

Reading a great book helps me to see the world in a different light and forget about all of the problems going on in the world. I might do the same for you: Getting lost in great books has totally changed my life; and I know it can do the same for you as well.

Stress doesn’t have to get the best of you and steal your happiness. I hope these four ideas help you just as much as they have benefited my life over the years.

Originally Posted on Entrepreneur.com